NAPA — Jalen Richard doesn’t think the stars could’ve aligned any more perfectly for someone in his situation.
Richard, a running back out of Southern Miss, went undrafted and didn’t even have any immediate bites to sign a free agent deal. But he got invited to tryout with the Raiders at their rookie minicamp and impressed enough to get signed.
He’s continued to turn enough heads that he could be making a serious run at the 53-man roster. And it’s all been done with a supreme level of confidence.
“You see some rookies that honestly are kind of like, I wouldn’t say not confident in themselves, but not playing loosely,” Richard said Sunday. “This is football. This is what you’ve been doing since you were 5 and I’ve taken that advice from my coaches. … With that confidence, I’ve just been able to relax.”
Richard has done a good job of assessing his opportunity. The Raiders have an established starting running back in Latavius Murray and drafted DeAndre Washington in the fifth round.
Taiwan Jones’ role could be leaning mostly toward special teams. Particularly with Marcel Reece suspended for the first three games, there could be a spot for Richard.
He’s caught wind of some of the praise he’s received during training camp, but refuses to be satisfied.
“There’s a lot of practice All-Americans,” Richard said. “I don’t want to be All-Alameda. I don’t want to be All-Napa. I want to be All-Pro.”
It’s clear Richard has already become a favorite of some of the veterans. Menelik Watson jumped into an interview to sing his praises and he’s in the midst of a big-time ping-pong tournament. He and Amari Cooper have a 2-0 series lead in a doubles matchup with Derek Carr and Lee Smith.
Overall, he’s just making sure he enjoys every aspect of his time here.
“I came in on the tryout,” Richard said. “You don’t know what to expect, you don’t know how things are going to go. Obviously, you want to make the team. But at the same time, you want to have fun.”
Washington is also having his share of fun with the former Texas Tech star a near lock to be the backup. The 5-foot-8, 204-pound Washington has almost the same frame as the 5-8, 207-pound Richard.
That stature could work in their favor behind the Raiders’ massive offensive line.
“Just being able to hide behind those guys and do my thing, it makes it a lot easier for me to find those holes,” Washington said. “And it makes it a lot harder for the defense to find me so I think it works out in my favor.”
Washington hasn’t been able to hide all the time though and he’s taken his share of big pops during camp. He’s shown a knack for quickly hopping up, but he gets the deal that as a rookie he’s going to get targeted.
“You know, it’s part of your first year,” Washington said. “Guys are definintely going to test you. I’m a competitor. I love to compete. I definitely remember those guys who bring that little extra pop, so they definitely have to see my somewhere again down the line.”